When I go on holiday, delicious food and drink is one of the most important aspects of making the holiday a success. This year the food was particularly good.
There was no question that the food would be good, because my holiday this year was a visit to my food blogging friend Karen of Lavender and Lovage in the Charente-Maritime region of France. More about the French Cheese Cake later, but first some photographic postcards.
Talmont sur Gironde is so picturesque, it’s a little fishing village in the Charente-Maritime area of France. It is very popular with tourists, so much so they have built a huge car park making it easy to access the village and you can walk around the narrow streets without traffic.
The Market Menu at L’Acacias in Corme Royal was a real gourmet treat at an incredibly reasonable price. We enjoyed a chicken and sun-dried tomato salad, followed by Sea Bass with fresh peas in a creme fraiche sauce, then finished the meal with Cafe Gourmande, a coffee with three mini desserts all of which were absolutely delicious.
We followed this meal by visiting Chateau Guynot for a degustation (tasting) of the local tipple, Pineau de Charentes. First we had a look at the Glaciere or Ice House, then a tour of the distillery with the charming Sabrina and then back for the tasting. Pineau de Charentes is wine fortified with cognac and aged in oak barrels. It comes in red and white varieties and is sold at 4 years old, 8 years old and 16 years old.
Each has it’s own merits, the 4 year old is light and fresh and particularly good for cooking, the 8 year old is ideal for aperitif and the 16 year old Pineau is rich and smooth and would be a gorgeous digestif with coffee and chocolate. You may note that Karen and I are a little flushed after tasting all 8 types of Pineau and I also had a taste of their Gold Medal winning Cognac!
The Charente-Maritime area is on the Gironde estuary and this viewpoint at Mortagne sur Gironde provides a panoramic view of the estuary with points of interest illustrated on a colourful tile display. After our viewing, we headed to Port Maubert where we enjoyed a picnic ‘sur l’herbe’ and watched the fishermen and the boating activity on the inlet.
Some of the gorgeous flowers of the Charente-Maritime, there were flowers everywhere.
It’s always nice to have a look around the area where you are staying, so we went for a walk around Montpellier de Medillan and the surrounding countryside. It was a very hot day, so we set off in the morning before it got too hot, walking past fields of sunflowers, maize, horses and enjoying the very French architecture.
I think this photograph is my favourite, the sunflowers were on their last legs with only a few smaller flower heads shining their sunny faces our way. I love sunflowers and fields of sunflower seem to epitomise rural France.
Saintes is the closest town to Montpellier de Medillant and is incredibly rich in Roman history and artefacts.
“The ancient town of Saintes may have played a major role early, under Emperor Augustus (27 BC – 14 AD), possibly s the capital of the great Aquitaine province. Under Augustus, Agrippa opened up an important road from Lyon, then capital of Gaules. It reached Saintes’ bridge on the East side of the Charente, before becoming the major axis of the town the decumanus maximus.
During the 1st century AD, great monuments were built. Today the only remains are the carved stones colleciton of the ARcheological Museum, the Arch of Germanicaus, the veistges of the Saint-Saloine’s bathes and this Amphitheatre.” Information from Saintes Gallo Roman Amphitheatre Visitor Centre.
As I said we had very hot weather and ate out in the garden every evening. As would be expected, Karen provided delicious food, including the Tian of Aubergines and Courgettes (top left) and the Chicken and Artichokes in a creamy sauce (top right). The Tarte au Citron came from the supermarket and were also very good.
A dip in the swimming pool was the ideal way to cool off and really appreciated when the temperatures soared to 34C!
On Sunday, Karen invited some friends over for a barbeque. Karen made a delicious slow-cooked pulled pork, marinaded chicken kebabs and a variety of French sausages. Karen also made potato salad, a layered Mexican Taco Salad.
I contributed to the salads by making a panzanella, garlic and oil toasted croutons with tomato, cucumber and red onion, dressed in olive oil and white wine vinegar.
THE FRENCH CHEESE CAKE
Karen also suggested that I recreate the ‘French Cheese Cake’ that she had recently made to take to a local festival, you can see Karen’s Summer French Cheese Cake Tower at Lavender and Lovage. The French Cheese Cake is made by simply stacking the following cheeses: Brie, Saint Nectaire, Tomme, Bress Bleu and Crottin (goats cheese).
I picked all the leaves and flowers in Karen’s garden, including vine leaves, olive branches, lavender, lemon balm, fennel, thyme flowers and roses. The French Cheese Cake is really easy to make and incredibly impressive. It stands up well even once it’s been cut.
I would highly recommend this beautiful area of South West France for a holiday and, of course, would recommend a visit to the Lavender and Lovage blog for more fabulous photographs and recipes.